Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dec. 24 - Safely ensconced and top headlines

All the family is home and safely ensconced in warm confines of home. One last attempt at top fresh produce headlines before Christmas holiday....

First Chilean fruit shipment reaches Delaware port JOC reports

The year’s first shipment of winter fruit from Chile called the Port of Wilmington, Del., onboard Pacific Seaways’ chartered reefer vessel M/V Royal Klipper on Dec. 19.

Last season the port handled 150,000 pallets of Chilean fruit with a retail value of $600 million for distribution that ranged north to Canada’s maritime provinces and west to the Mississippi River.

Targeting obesity along side hunger
Coverage from The Washington Post

But with hunger and obesity reaching unprecedented levels, some anti-hunger activists are beginning to soften their stance. According to a report by the Partnership for America's Economic Success, toddlers whose families have gone hungry are three to four times as likely to be obese. If the current recession resembles past downturns, the independent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities predicts, the number of Americans in poverty could rise by as many as 10 million, driving up obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"It was a very slow and difficult transition for me and my organization," said Kenneth Hecht, executive director of California Food Policy Advocates, a Los Angeles-based anti-hunger organization. "What we wanted to do was get more calories to people. Now we find it isn't more calories. It's more of the right calories."

To that end, the organization lobbied for a bill that would create incentives for recipients of food stamps to purchase healthful food. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed the bill into law in 2006, but the program never received funding.

The debate in California attracted national attention, however. In the 2008 farm bill, Congress allocated $20 million for a pilot program to explore how to create incentives to purchase fruits, vegetables or other healthful foods in order to improve the diets of food stamp recipients and potentially reduce obesity. Several nonprofit groups and foundations are experimenting with similar incentives.

FDA changes approach to third party inspections FDA says it will abandon random inspections in favor of looking at high risk facilities. Note this paragraph from Federal Times

FDA will also improve food safety by working more closely with the private sector — but will not turn over inspections to private companies, he said.
“We’re not in the business of contracting out FDA inspections,” he said.
Instead, the agency wants to take advantage of the private inspection data that many companies already collect. Major food retailers, for example, require their produce suppliers to meet certain standards, and they inspect those suppliers regularly. Acheson said FDA could use that information to shape its high-risk list.
FDA is working on a pilot program with several major shrimp producers. The companies will send FDA information about how they certify suppliers; Acheson said the agency would periodically send its own inspectors to “look over their shoulders.”

TK: How exactly does FDA want to utilize data from private third party inspectors to create its "high-risk" list? Surely, such a strategy would compromise the relationships between third party auditors and their customers...

The Guacamole crisis How the water crisis is hurting California avocado growers

Groups sues to block use of E-Verify to screen out illegal workers Lawsuit filed against Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff by Society for Human Resource Management, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Builers and Contractors Inc., the American Council on International Personnel and the HR Policy Association.

Sunrise Farms sprouts recalled for salmonella contamination
Routine food safety tests conducted on the sprouts by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture turned up positive for salmonella, said the Wisconsin AG Connection. The Capital Times reported that none of Sunrise Farms’ other sprout mixes are included in this recall and that, to date, there have not been any reports of illness according to the Health Department.

2008 in review: Salmonella outbreak has nation fearing tomatoes
Another top of the chart rating for salmonella outbreak in review of top 2008 news

Britain's slide toward recession accelerates
GDP falls by 0.6 in third quarter, largest drop in 18 years.

Is a new food policy on Obama's list
NYT coverage Foodies can hope, but....

Although Mr. Obama has proposed changes in the nation’s farm and rural policies and emphasizes the connection between diet and health, there is nothing to indicate he has a special interest in a radical makeover of the way food is grown and sold.

Wal-Mart labor settlement: preemptive strike against unionization

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